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Pubs – Don’t Forget OER!

We in the ed tech world are fortunate to have a wide range of coverage of our segment of the industry, from traditional trade publications like T.H.E. Journal, eSchool News and Tech and Learning, to a variety of blogs as well as entities like EdSurge that have a focus on the business and especially start-up side. (It seems weird to have traditional publications in a field that I have always considered young, but I remind myself –truth in reporting – I worked for T.H.E. Journal for 16 years.) We still are a small market segment, and I consider some of the editors, publishers and writers for these “publications,” to be colleagues and some of them are friends. So call this a friendly plea to think a bit differently, and help our readers do the same, especially when covering “traditional” topics. I will pick on eSchool News as an example, but it can be true of any of the ‘traditional’ trade publications. My plea concerns OER. In otherwise interesting articles, eSchool News missed great opportunities to bring the notion of open educational resources to its readers.

For example, the article “Tips for understanding copyright rules” was a good refresher on Copyright 101, and provided some fair use guidelines for different types of works, as well as the four factors of fair use doctrine (say that four times fast). Toward the end of the article, I kept looking for the section on Open Educational Resources and how they are different from the traditionally licensed textbooks used in schools. Alas, that section was not there – but it could have been.

Next I read another article in eSN, “Publishers answering the call for digital textbooks.” The author spotlighted five entities providing “digital textbooks”: Apple iBooks, CK-12 Foundation, Kno, Discovery Education and McGraw-Hill. Each has interesting and attractive features and capabilities, all of which are likely to help keep students engaged. What was not explored in the description of these products was how they were licensed and how that licensing may effect how the content could be used by the teachers and students. To more and more teachers, materials licensed with a Creative Commons license that allows remix and redistribution options are becoming appealing. This added flexibility allows teachers to provide instructional materials more individually suited for each student.

So I send my plea for writers and editors in the education market and especially in the educational technology space to provide an additional angle for your increasing coverage of digital content: Don’t forget the positive role that OER can play as the instructional materials market evolves to a more flexible, user-friendly space.

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